kickin' it

Kickin' It: October 2019 Wrap Up

Friday, November 01, 2019

October was a good in between month. I didn’t have too much going on this month. September was my birthday month and I was surrounded by social outings. For November, I am going on vacation for a bit so my amount of reading is probably going to drop dramatically. So, in between month October, was the perfect month to get all those fall books finished. I participated in Spookathon and read a bunch of spooky books. Overall, I finished 14 books which is absolutely crazy to me, considering I read the longest book of the year this month too (about 720 pages!). Here’s what I read this month:

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister (3.5 stars): I adore books that have magicians and magic in them. So, I went into this with high expectations. This was my first novel I read by Macallister and as much as I loved her writing, the story wasn’t that enticing.

Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson (2 stars): I was cringing the whole time but at this point, I just wanted to finish the series. This book was completely unnecessary. 

The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab (3 stars): It’s not a secret that I loved the Darker Shades of Magic series so I was so excited to hear about this spin-off graphic novel series that follows Maxim, the King. It was a solid first book but I didn’t care for the art, the shading seemed a bit off.

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston (4 stars): This is the companion to Geekerella that I definitely needed in my life. It’s a retelling of the Prince and the Pauper. It was absolutely magical. And everything about it was precious and lovely. It was so good!

Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz (4 stars): I was very hesitant to start this since I saw Stolarz herself rated it 1 star on Goodreads (she has since removed the rating, so maybe it was a mistake). However, I really enjoyed this one. Shutter follows a girl who unknowingly photographs a runaway criminal, and things spiral from there. Stolarz is one of my favorite authors of all time so I’m happy to say that Shutter did not disappoint.

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (5 stars): So it’s been a good five years since I read the first book, Shatter Me. And it’s been a goal of mine to try and continue in the series and finally this month, I decided to give the sequel a try. And I loved it! Also, I distinctly remembering being hardcore Team Adam in the first book but I think I may be changing my tune and leaning more towards Team Warner.

Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine (4 stars): This was such a great installment in the series! It’s book 13 of the Morganville Vampire series and I am slowing making my way through it. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I’ll be finished with all the books. Bitter Blood just gave me a big kick in the feels. It was heartwrenching and you get to see a side of characters, we haven’t yet seen which was fun.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (4 stars): I’ve been trying to read this one for a while but it’s so huge and the font is so small that I never get past 50 pages. Well, this time I powered through and I am so happy I did. It was so worth it. This book isn’t just a book, it’s an immersive experience between the layers of stories, including the pictures, interviews, experimental prose, and more. I highly recommend. Plus, it’s perfect for this spooky time of year.

Blackbird by Anna Carey (2.5 stars): I liked Anna Carey’s other series, Eve, so for the Spookathon, I decided to give this a go since it was super short. It had a lot of potential and it did catch my interest a few times. However, it was in second person which really stole from the entire flow of the book. It was jarring. So much so, that I even tried the audiobook to see if it was better that way and the whole second person perspective just wasn’t for me.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (2 stars): I primarily picked this up because of the gorgeous cover and lovely end pages. However, what I found inside was an extremely slow story that could have been 100 less pages. The writing was fine but the plot just wasn’t for me.

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (4 stars): Dorothy Must Die was my favorite book I read last month so I was hoping to find another favorite with the sequel. Instead, it was okay but it read like a sequel which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (3 stars): I finally read a solo Adam Silvera book (I read his collaboration book with Becky Albertalli in the beginning of the year, What If It's Us). This one hurt my heart; it was absolutely heartbreaking in the best way possible. I thought it was a bit slow at times which is why I rated it a little lower. However, I did appreciate the writing and the gorgeous story. I’m looking forward to reading some more of his work.

The Fledgling Handbook 101 by P.C. Cast and Kim Doner (3 stars): I finished the House of Night series a month or two ago and I had this on my shelf still. It was pretty small and had pictures so I decided to kick off the Spookathon Readathon with this. It took me about an hour or two to complete it and it was fine. If you’re a fan of the series, this is a nice addition for your shelf.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (3 stars): Witches in books are not really my thing anymore. However, I was keeping this around because I loved how well the colors on the cover worked together. It turned out to be a good book. I didn’t expect it to be in the historical genre so that was surprise. And where most witch books deal with newfound powers, Born Wicked actually focuses on this family of witches who’ve known they were witches for a while and must conceal their powers from the outside world. It was a different take on witches that I haven’t read about before. However, I don’t think I’ll be continuing in the rest of the series.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (11/5/19): Finally! We will have the Ronan spin-off in our hands! I loved Ronan in The Raven Cycle and always wished to know more about him. I have such high expectations.

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White (11/5/19): It’s a new series from Kiersten White! I cannot wait! Plus, it’s a retelling of King Arthur. I absolutely loved her Paranormalcy series, and as much as I adored her writing in And I Darken, I didn’t quite love the story. However, I am ready to give this one a try. Plus, that cover, so gorgeous!

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (11/5/19): I’ve been low key wanting to read her other book, Brain on Fire, and just haven’t gotten the chance to yet. However, this one sounds even more incredible. It’s about a study that sent several healthy individuals to mental hospitals, where they had to prove their sanity to be released. I rarely read nonfiction but this sounds so promising, I may give it a try.

This month, I rented a few movies and started some new television shows. I made sure to rewatch Zombieland so I could go see the sequel, Zombieland Double Tap. It was comedic and entertaining. I like the first one better but that’s usually how sequels work. Also, I was able to rent some movies from the library: Toy Story 4 and Yesterday. Toy Story 4 is probably my least favorite Toy Story yet but there were definitely some tear jerk moments. Yesterday was a bit slow but interesting nonetheless. Mr. Robot finally rejoined television in its final season. And I started watching Nancy Drew, a new show on the CW. I’m a big fan of the Nancy Drew PC games so I was looking forward to loving the show. After giving three episodes a try, I don’t think I will be continuing. Somewhere along the lines, they lost the vibes from the original content. Overall, a solid watching month!

Toy Story 4 Disney GIF

What amazing books did you read this month? Did you watch any good movies or shows?

Top Ten Tuesday

10 Spooky Books to Read During Halloween

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Halloween is creeping upon us and do you know what that means? Time to pick out the candy of your choice (for me, it's definitely Reese's) and make a nice cup of hot chocolate (with those tiny marshmallows) with a book to devour during the scariest night of the year.

And I know, it can be difficult to choose a book to read, especially to find one that is as spooky as the night you're reading it on. Look no further, I've got you covered. Here's some pretty spooky reads that fit right in to the scary season. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: Halloween Freebie so I'm recommending some Spooky Books to Read During Halloween:

The Forgotten Book by Mecthild Glaser: This one is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Where's the spooky, you ask? Well, there's a twist. A student at a boarding school finds a hidden book that looks like a journal but when written in, all the words in it become truth. The atmosphere of this countryside boarding school coupled with a magical book makes for some spooky vibes.

Alone by Cyn Balog: I went into this knowing absolutely nothing about it- which is the best way to go into most books. And because of it, I was entirely floored at the story. This is the perfect book to read when you're alone at home, on a stormy night. Super creepy!

The Diviners by Libba Bray: I highly recommend the audiobook for this one. Not only is the book itself daunting because it looks huge, but the narrator embodies the roaring 20s lady's voice so well. I haven't continued in this series yet but the first book is such a spooky gem!

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton: I didn't particularly like this story but the writing and the setting sells spooky vibes. 

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich: Probably my favorite one out of this entire list. Dawn Kurtagich surprises again with this book. Actually, if you're looking for a book for Halloween, just check out any book by Dawn Kurtagich, she does not disappoint.

The Accident Season by Moria Fowley-Doyle: If you're looking for something that is truly atmospheric and doesn't explain a whole lot, then The Accident Season is for you. I still have lots of questions but overall, the story does keep you on your toes.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert: The first thing that comes to mind when I think of this one is fairy tales. However, there are some definite spooky parts. Plus, not all fairy tales end in happy endings. 

The Secret Circle series by L.J. Smith: I am super picky about reading books with witches. Most of them seem to follow a pattern about finding about their powers and then, of course, trying to save the world with them. With witch books, since they tend to be predictable, I have to be in the mood for them. However, The Secret Circle surprised me. I loved L.J. Smith's writing after reading The Vampire Diaries so I knew I would enjoy The Secret Circle regardless. It was surprising to find one of my most favorite books about witches from it.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: I devoured this book this month and am still thinking about it. House of Leaves is an immersive experience filled with pictures, letters, interviews, and more to tell a story of a house that may be the gateway to a sort of purgatory. It's an experimental, yet marvelous book to add to your spooky collection.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood: I just finished this one and it was as spooky as I was hoping it would be. This book is another about witches but instead trying to figure out their powers, these characters have known about their powers for a long time and hope to keep it a secret. Unless the Brotherhood of the town will have them hanged if they find out. It's a high stakes, historical paranormal that has lovely writing and a spooky atmosphere.

What spooky books are reading this Halloween?

author interview

Author Interview: Kelly Coon (Gravemaidens)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Kelly Coon

YA author Kelly Coon (GRAVEMAIDENS, Oct. 29 2019 Delacorte Press, sequel 2020) is an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, ACT test prep book author, and a wicked karaoke singer in training. She adores giving female characters the chance to flex their muscles and use their brains, and wishes every story got the happy ending she's living near Tampa with her three sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich.-Goodreads
Yeah, Kammani tends to be ultra-focused on the realities in front of her, while Nanaea allows herself to enjoy the moments of beauty and fun when they are there. I think Nanaea probably enjoys the very first selection festival the most because it is such a shock to her. No one expected that the daughter of a healer who has been cast down after failing to heal the lugal’s son would get the honor. So the thrill of her selection would only add to the excitement in her mind.
I was raised in a fundamentalist environment, so I heard about human sacrifice since the time I was a little kid. Although I’m not a fundamentalist anymore, the willingness of someone to die for something they believe in is compelling to me. Once I read some history about the ancient practices of human sacrifices all over the planet, I knew I wanted to set my story in a fantasy world where this was revered.
So much! I researched sewing lacerations, mixing tinctures, midwifery, weaponry, ancient common flowers, trees and herbs, and even what women used to do regarding periods in ancient times. Hint: modern society did not invent the tampon. 
He is of the nobility. In Alu, class is determined by what you own, and in general, there is a small portion of nobility and a larger portion of those who are working hard to stay afloat. Since Dagan’s family owns the most land, he is arguably one of the wealthiest people in the city. That’s why Kammani is supposed to feel grateful that he is seeking her hand (spoiler alert: she doesn’t). Someone of his wealth and status shouldn’t want to be with someone of such lowly means like Kammani, and like many of the traditions in her city, Kammani hates it. 
Work smarter, not harder. Oh! And have a growth mindset.

I wrote three failed novels prior to writing Gravemaidens. And I was nothing if not persistent; my 106 agent rejections are a testament to that. But doing the wrong things persistently didn’t get me anywhere. It wasn’t until I humbled myself and realized I had so much to learn about the craft of novels, did I get my wonderful agent, Kari Sutherland, and get a two-book deal with Delacorte Press. 
Sure! I’m just finishing up the edits on the sequel to Gravemaidens which comes out next fall. In this story, Kammani is working to prevent a war on her city’s soil, but she must battle warrior maidens who are just as intent on starting one while trusting her instincts—and her heart—to guide her. 

I’ve also written another novel that my editor is considering right now and am currently working on a YA contemporary with speculative elements. 
Iltani was absolutely my favorite to write. I basically wrote whatever popped into my head, whether it was sarcastic, mean, challenging, or witty. In real life, I have to bite my tongue a lot, but Iltani never has to. Haha! Sometimes, it’s fun to let loose, behave badly, and say exactly what you want to say, consequences be damned. 😉
I think I wrote the last scene between Nin Arwia and Kammani in the dungeon thirty different times. I was trying to get the emotional arc right for Kammani and it was difficult. Finally, I think I landed on it, but you’ll have to see for yourself if you think I was successful!!! 
Yes! Getting a book published with Random House was always on my bucket list, so now that I’ve done that, I would really like to be able to sell film rights to one of my stories. I know I have very little to do with whether my books get made into a series or a film, but that’s just one of those pie in the sky dreams that I feel like I want to pursue anyway. 

Thank you for joining us on the blog today, Kelly!

I absolutely adored Gravemaidens! Its heart pounding, jaw dropping journey takes readers completely by surprise. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon is a masterful debut that twists your insides. Be sure to read my review on it, and most definitely add it to your tbr! Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon releases October 29, 2019! Make sure to check out Kelly Coon's website, where you can also find some goodies if you preorder her book!

About Gravemaidens

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land's greatest honor...and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. When Alu's ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence. Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

book review

High Stakes in an Outstanding Debut | Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Friday, October 18, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 10/29/19
Pages: 416
Source: publisher in exchange for an honest review
The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land's greatest honor...and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. When Alu's ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence. Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.
The ruler of Alu is dying. That means only one thing. It’s time to choose the Sacred Maidens who will accompany the lugal, or ruler, of the city into the Afterlife. When Nanaea is chosen as a Maiden, she and all the townspeople see it as a great honor and blessing. Except Kammani, Nanaea’s sister, who sees the tradition for what it is: murder. Kammani strives to save her sister at all costs. She is called to heal the lugal but all may not be as it seems in the palace. When she glimpses too much of the truth, Kammani realizes that the path ahead is dangerous, knowing that it may only end in death. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon is a magnificent debut with a unique story that you’ve never seen before.

  • Gravemaidens was able to give readers a lot of information without dumping too much information at once. Instead, Kelly Coon slides a little bit of world building into every scene and without even realizing it, I was already deeply immersed into the story. 
  • From the first chapter, the stakes were placed extremely high. Nanaea is chosen to be a Sacred Maiden. In Kammani’s eyes, that's a death sentence. A lot of people do not see it that way; they focus on what an honor it is. These differing perspectives easily increase the stakes because the majority of characters do not see it as life threatening. It's absolutely genius. On the one side, there’s Kammani (and me). And on the other side was everyone else in the book, celebrating because the standing-ruler is going to murder three women to join the lugal in his tomb. Gravemaidens is a heart pounding journey that has to be finished in one sitting. 
  • Coon’s writing is absolutely superb. The immersive world, coupled with Kammani’s curious perspective makes for a page turner like no other. 
  • In many cultures, people believed that they had to be buried with what they would take with them when they crossed over. In Egyptian culture, they were sometimes buried with their pets (who—I recall—were alive). Those history lessons in school always left me curious to learn more. And finally, an amazing author wrote a book focusing on that aspect of the Afterlife. It was everything I wanted and more!

  • Going into the book, I expected a unique view on the Afterlife as well as a strong sisterly bond. For sure, readers receive Kammani’s modern perspective on the Afterlife. Kammani is seen as the sensible, reliable sister. She’s also an apprentice to her father, a healer. We follow her story as she tries to not only save the lugal from death but also her sister. You'd think this act of saving her sister would strengthen her bond with Nanaea but instead because of the warring perspectives, Nanaea essentially despises her for it. Nanaea is unlikable and completely naive. I’m not saying Kammani wasn’t in the wrong for some things but Nanaea never gives her sister a chance to explain her side. Gravemaidens reflects a side of siblings that readers don’t often see in YA. Instead of a strong sisterly bond, the book tackles raw and complex familial relationships
  • There was a little bit of romance which I adored in between stressful moments. The romance is, however, stunted by the lack of communication which is infuriating. I hope more comes of it in the sequel. 
  • There is certainly never a dull moment. The last hundred pages go by in almost warp speed. Gravemaidens is fast paced but the ending of the book jumped from 50mph to 100mph in no time at all. The ending was outstanding, with the reveals and Kammani’s quick thinking. It was so tense to a stomach-aching degree that I will be counting down the days until the sequel releases in 2020. 

This book deserves several more rereads to fully appreciate. Its heart pounding, jaw dropping journey takes readers completely by surprise. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon is a masterful debut that twists your insides. It's a page turner like no other with a fantastic world and complex characters. Gravemaidens needs to be on your radar!!

Tackling my TBR

Tackling My TBR: October 2019

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Tackling My TBR is a monthly post, where I share my reading plans for the upcoming month. The concept of a TBR Jar is not a new one. I’ve seen it used in various ways throughout the bookish community. My jar will be a little different. The goal is to read the older books on my to-read pile. Thus, instead of putting individual book titles on a small sheet of paper to place in the jar, I wrote a month and a year on each. Each month, I intend to pull three sheets of paper from my jar which will dictate which three books I will read. The dates on the paper correspond with the date I added those books to my Goodreads account. Some months will have over 20 books to choose from, when others may have only one. From Goodreads, I’ll choose the three books from the three different monthly hauls. And if I cannot complete the book within the month, it will be unhauled (with the exception of one pass each month).

In September, I tackled books from my April 2015, December 2017, and March 2018 book hauls. I am so happy that I finally read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. It’s been on my shelf for so long and classics are not something I usually read. It was okay, I actually prefer Pride and Prejudice but I’m one step closer to finish her complete works. I didn’t get around to The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin but I plan on reading the final book in the series by the end of the year. Looking back, I was supposed to read The Book Jumper by Mechtild Glaser but I ended up reading The Forgotten Book, also by her, instead. That was a solid Pride and Prejudice retelling with a twist.

From the jar, I picked from the November 2016, January 2013, and December 2011 book hauls. From there I chose the following books:

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi: So, this may come as a shock but I never continued in the Shatter Me series after the first book. I adored the first book back when it first came out so I purchased the second and even the third but never got around to it. Hopefully, this month is the time to finally read what happens next.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin: I’m debating whether or not to just unhaul all of my Giffin books because I didn’t love the last book I read from her, Love the One You’re With. I’ll try to give this one a go but after reading the synopsis, I’m not sure why I ever picked it up in the first place. It’s about a couple who decide they don’t want to have kids early on and then as time goes on, one of them changes their mind.

The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise: At first, this one reminded me of the movie, Pixel Perfect, but now I’m not so sure. Audrey builds an app to win a contest, using the scandals of her high school to inspire some of her app’s content. The synopsis is rather vague but it sounds like it might be good.


I enjoy reading spooky books in October so having a readathon to go with it is just icing on the cake. Spookathon is hosted by BooksandLala. Here’s the announcement for the readathon. It takes place between October 14th to the 20th. I couldn’t be more excited about this! Here’s the books and challenges I hope to complete:

read a book with a spooky word in the title:
The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige: I read Dorothy Must Die last month and absolutely loved it. I’ve been looking for a way to slip the sequel in somewhere. And wicked is definitely a spooky word.

something you wouldn't normally read:
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood: I used to read quite a bit of witch books but in recent years, I’m just not that into them anymore. However, I still have a few left on my shelf, Born Wicked being one of them.

read a thriller:
Deadly Little Lessons by Laurie Faria Stolarz: I know, I know. This isn’t a thriller, it’s more like a mystery with some creepy vibes. I rarely read actual thrillers, it’s just not a genre I gravitate towards. Plus, whenever I decide to read bestselling thrillers like The Girl on the Train and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, they turn out to be books that just aren’t for me.

read a book with red on the cover:
Blackbird by Anna Carey: I’m still in the middle of her first series, Eve. This one I know very little about and have heard readers talk about even less than her other books. It’s got red on the cover, that’s all I know.

read a book with a spooky setting:
Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson: Isn’t the apocalypse a spooky setting? I also needed this book to be on a set tbr because I would not be reading it otherwise. I’m so done with this series—it had a solid ending in the last book but insists on another whole book to conclude the series.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: House of Leaves can actually overlap quite a few challenges. I started this book five years ago, got about 50 pages in and then had to put it down due to homework and other responsibilities. This book isn’t your average book—it’s an experience that readers get fully immersed in. It’s astounding. I want to take my time with it, which is why I’m starting it earlier than the readathon. With over 700 pages, it’s not the most ideal book for a readathon either but if I get it finished this month, I’ll be so happy!

What are you reading this month?